The big Bangor return...
Central Station, Belfast and the scenes are already intense. Excited people are on the platform and many others are jammed behind the barriers upstairs, waiting for the word. And here it is... The Snow Patrol Express to Bangor is leaving from Platform Three... barks the Controller. And so we scramble on board, thinking this is either a scene from A Hard Day's Night or a ride to Hogwart's. Whatever, it's something novel for Northern Ireland.
The giddy feeling follows us all the way to Ward Park. There are indie kids, dutiful parents and hen parties with customised T-shirts. The site itself looks like a regular rock and roll festival, with food concessions and merchandise sellers. Anyone for a Norn Iron football shirt with the Snow Patrol logo on the back?
The fans who beat the congestion on the trains have managed to see local boys Kowalski, gifted the chance to open the event, and coping well. Simple Kid looks like cross between Beck and Bjorn Borg, extra value for the gathering crowd.
The Dead 60s have returned from their extended American adventures, causing us to wonder if they still matter. In response they play with extra bravura - a harder Hard Fi. They still have the heavy manners and the righteous skank and the crowd is getting enthused. There's also a positive greeting for We Are Scientists, who mutter about birthdays and play to Snow Patrol's indie heartland.
Tim Wheeler senses the mood of the occasion and gets the crowd chanting for David Healy, another part of our soaring cultural worth. And Ash are surely connected to that that upswing as they strike out with so many bold tunes and winning choruses. From Burn Baby Burn to the mythical trek that is Twilight Of The Innocents, it's a roaring set. You can argue over the loss of Charlotte, but early songs like Jack Names The Planets and Kung Fu are boss, and End Of The World is the Wheeler deal.
Snow Patrol prime us with an ancient video for Teenage Kicks, as Feargal Sharkey sings us into another proud occasion. Then it's a thumping intro to Hands Open, with the mention of Chicago getting traded for Bangor, prompting more cheers. Gary tells his parish that himself and Jonny used to play football and ride their bikes here. It's a perfect place to sign off their touring duties for the UK and Ireland, a sentimental journey.
He asks us to shout out to Donaghadee, who heard the soundcheck, six miles along the coast. He stubbornly backs An Olive Grove Facing The Sea, a reminder of their leftfield melancholia of old. Iain Archer and his wife Miriam are borrowed for Set The Fire To The Third Bar and of course there's a delirious home Run.
Lightbody hails the arrival of his niece Honey and pays respect to the Ulster Hospital. Signal Fire sounds dandy and Open Your Eyes is accompanied by a video of the road from Belfast to Bangor. Cue Chasing Cars and crimson fireworks, lighting up the lough and so many delighted faces.
Gary wants this to be a regular event, maybe every two years. Jonny Quinn has just proposed to his girlfriend onstage. For the next hour or two, the Holywood bypass will be solid with blinking lights as the multitudes head back along the coast. How phenomenal do you want?
Photos by Liam McBurney